Cover Image
close this bookGender and HIV (Best Practice Collection - Technical Update) (UNAIDS, 1998, 12 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentAt a Glance
View the documentBackground
Open this folder and view contentsThe Challenges
Open this folder and view contentsThe Responses
View the documentSelected Key Materials


Gender roles and relations have a significant influence on the course and impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in every region of the world. Understanding the influence of gender roles and relations on individuals’ and communities’ ability to protect themselves from HIV and effectively cope with the impact of AIDS is crucial for expanding the response to the epidemic.

UNAIDS uses a broad definition of gender (see below). Whereas sex is biological, gender is socially defined. Our understanding of what it means to be a girl or a boy, a woman or a man, develops over a life-time; we are not born knowing what is expected of our sex - we learn it in our families and communities. Thus, these meanings will vary by culture, by community, by family, and by relationship, with each generation and over time.

Research shows that being a girl or boy and a woman or man, influences how a person experiences and responds to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. A gender-based approach to understanding HIV/AIDS examines the ways in which gender influences:

· individual risk and vulnerability to HIV;
· the experience of living with HIV/AIDS;
· the impact of an individual’s HIV-related illness and death within a family or community; and
· responses to the epidemic at the individual, community, and national level.

An effective response to the epidemic must be built on understanding those influences.

Gender a broad definition

"What it means to be male or female, and how that defines a person's opportunities, roles, responsibilities, and relationship."

© Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS 1998. All rights reserved. This publication may be freely reviewed, quoted, reproduced or translated, in part or in full, provided the source is acknowledged. It may not be sold or used in conjunction with commercial purposes without prior written approval from UNAIDS (contact: UNAIDS Information Centre, Geneva–see page 2). The views expressed in documents by named authors are solely the responsibility of those authors. The designations employed and the presentation of the material in this work do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of UNAIDS concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers and boundaries. The mention of specific companies or of certain manufacturers' products do not imply that they are endorsed or recommended by UNAIDS in preference to others of a similar nature that are not mentioned. Errors and omissions excepted, the names of proprietary products are distinguished by initial capital letters.